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Destiny Queen victory delights Baker

George Baker was delighted as Destiny Queen made a winning debut in the John Guest Racing British EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes at Ascot.

Baker’s Surrey yard is not known for winners first time out, and Destiny Queen was sent off a 28-1 chance.

But the daughter of Al Wukair travelled sweetly for Pat Cosgrave – and when Pulcheria dropped away, she pulled two lengths clear of Loquace.

Baker said: “We never over-cook our two-year-olds – and as a result, we do have an average record because of the way we do things, but then we have horses who go on and have lovely, long careers.

“This filly, it’s such a cliché, but she’s always been on my mind as a three-year-old. I just wanted to get experience into her, maybe just one run today because she’s got to grow into her frame.

“I’ve always loved her, and that is a massive bonus. I’ve been with Pat Cosgrave a long time, and he doesn’t get over-excited very often. But he was excited by that – as am I.

“I know this isn’t D-Day, which is why it’s exciting. I know what I hope she might be, but I didn’t expect to see it today. There are some nice targets for fillies like her, but we’ll probably put her away and run her in the Guineas!”

Richard Hannon won the Anders Foundation British EBF Crocker Bulteel Maiden Stakes for the sixth time in seven years as Ehraz justified 4-9 favouritism with the minimum of fuss.

A valuable race for its type, only horses who had not run more than once could chase the £11,000 first prize – and the result was never really in any doubt.

Jim Crowley had the armchair ride, and said: “He was pretty impressive. He’s a smashing horse.

“He’s by Showcasing, so will be just as effective on good to soft ground as well. He has a lovely temperament.

“When I rode him work early on he felt like a seven-furlong horse, but he’s getting quicker with racing.

“We’ve had some lovely Showcasings – and he’s another.”

Paddy Power gave Ehraz a 33-1 quote for next year’s 2000 Guineas.

Speedo Boy (8-1) had been winless on the Flat for three years since his victory in the John Guest Racing Brown Jack Stakes in 2018, but he clearly thrives at this time of year – and duly regained his title in this competitive handicap.

Speedo Boy and William Buick won the John Guest Racing Brown Jack Handicap at Ascot
Speedo Boy and William Buick won the John Guest Racing Brown Jack Handicap at Ascot (Steven Paston/PA)

William Buick was determined not to let Silvestre de Sousa get loose on the front end, on bottom weight and favourite Star Caliber, and led two furlongs out en route to victory by two and three-quarter lengths.

Trainer Ian Williams said: “He hadn’t actually won for three years. He’s had a good hurdling career in the interim, but it’s great to have him back.

“He’ll probably come back for the Shergar Cup – he obviously likes it here.”

Mountain Peak (7-1) secured his ninth career win, in the nick of time when prevailing by a head in the Rotary Club Of Ascot Handicap.

Trainer Ed Walker, who also won the feature Valiant Stakes with Dreamloper, felt the race was set up perfectly for Mountain Peak – with Caspian Prince and Bedford Flyer going off like the clappers.

“God, they went fast but it was fun to watch – it was set up so well for him,” said Walker.

“He needs the ground as fast as possible, and he needs a good strong pace.”

Henry Candy’s Alfred Boucher (11-2) was rewarded after a string of consistent efforts when just edging out Grand Bazaar by a short head in the John Guest Racing Handicap.

“The trainer has finally realised he gets a mile and a half!” said Candy.

“He’s incredibly game, because he’s only a pony but he’s got a huge stride and a huge heart – and he wants to do it.

“He’s been unlucky a couple of times – the people that have ridden him have got a little too far back, and he just hasn’t quite got there, but David (Probert) gave him a cracking ride today. Hopefully the handicapper doesn’t go mad.”

Probert doubled up in the closing Berenberg October Club Supporting Cares Family Fillies’ Handicap, on the Michael Dods-trained Havagomecca (13-2).

Passionova puts down early Royal Ascot marker

While the temperature may have been hovering around freezing at Lingfield, trainer George Baker was already dreaming of Royal Ascot following the impressive victory of Passionova.

Mummy Bear was expected to give Ryan Moore another winner in the Ladbrokes Watch Racing Online For Free Fillies’ Novice Stakes – but Richard Hannon’s odds-on shot had no answer to Passionova, who was having just her second run.

Sent off a 15-2 chance, the three-year-old looked a different proposition to when finishing sixth on debut.

Passionova (left) has big-race ambitions later in the year
Passionova (left) has big-race ambitions later in the year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Ahead of her that day was Mahale and it was that rival who chased her home on this occasion, but this time Passionova was five and a half lengths to the good.

Baker said: “I’ve always liked her and she was a lovely filly to pick up at the breeze-up sale.

“I’ve given her plenty of time and she’s really stepped up today and she’ll go further.

“Shane (Kelly) was very impressed to the extent that he mentioned the Sandringham, which is very exciting, and I think we’ll put her away and wait for the turf.”

Galahad Threepwood could be a decent prospect for Mick Channon given the way he followed up a recent win in the Betway Apprentice Handicap.

He scored on his handicap debut at the track last month, but was 6lb higher in a better race on this occasion.

Galahad Threepwood and George Bass lead the field
Galahad Threepwood and George Bass lead the field (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

George Bass offset that with his 5lb claim and the way he beat the well-bred John Gosden runner Moohareeba by four lengths suggested he probably would have won without that.

Assistant trainer Jack Channon said of the 4-6 favourite: “He really has turned a corner between three and four and is very progressive.

“He clearly loves this track. We’re very happy with the way he did it and my first inclination would be that he will have a short break before we look at other options, including on turf.”

Bass said: “It’s nice that I’m getting quite a few rides for outside stables, but even nicer that that was one for the boss and he’s a real progressive individual as you saw.”

Cieren Fallon (left) drives Twilight Heir to victory
Cieren Fallon (left) drives Twilight Heir to victory (Alan Crowhirst/PA)

Cieren Fallon was on the board for Qatar Racing as Twilight Heir (3-1) won the Get Your Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boost Handicap.

His sole success last year came at Catterick and while he only had two to beat, he was the outsider of the three for Michael Bell.

“Mr Bell has done a really good job with this horse. I’ve sat on him a few times at home and he’s an easy ride,” said Fallon, who flies out to Saudi Arabia next week for the mount on Oxted on the Saudi Cup undercard.

“He jumped a bit awkward and I rode it like a piece of work. I didn’t want to get done for a turn of foot so I kept him rolling down the hill. He’s done really well through the winter this horse.”

Baker branching out in Bahrain

Trainer George Baker is excited about setting up a satellite yard in Bahrain.

Baker, who has enjoyed his best days with the likes of Belgian Bill and Boomshackerlacker, has never been afraid to travel his horses – including for several notable wins in France.

He also won on the ice at St Moritz in February with Wargrave, a recent winner over hurdles.

Friday sees the Bahrain International Trophy run for the second time – with plenty of British interest in the shape of Lord Glitters, Desert Encounter and Global Giant. Japanese star Deirdre is another lining up and is set to be ridden by Hollie Doyle.

“We are hugely excited at the official announcement of a long-term partnership between the Rashid Equestrian & Horseracing Club and George Baker Racing, which signals our long-term commitment to horse racing in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and we look forward to the establishment of a satellite yard in the coming months,” said Baker.

“We have been very impressed with the commitment and vision of the REHC.

“The quality of the field for the upcoming Bahrain International Trophy is testament to the quality of the racing surface and the facilities on site, and we are excited to become a part of an ambitious and burgeoning horse racing jurisdiction.”

Wargrave has Baker dreaming of big things on Southwell return

Wargrave fuelled more “mad dreams” for trainer George Baker when he added a maiden victory over hurdles at Southwell to a remarkable equine CV which already contains a ‘white turf’ title at St Moritz.

Wargrave won the Grosser Preis von St Moritz on his stable debut for Baker in February, having previously run in the Group One National Stakes as a two-year-old for Fozzy Stack in Ireland and since taken in Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood this summer.

After the son of Galileo had proved himself equally adept over jumps, beating odds-on favourite Hooper by a length in the Sky Sports Racing HD Virgin 535 Maiden Hurdle, Baker cited “America, via the Guatemalan Derby” as possible future destinations.

Slightly closer to home for the Sussex trainer, but on no smaller stage, Wargrave has sparked hopes of spring targets at Aintree or Cheltenham if he can manage to “sneak into” a big handicap.

“I brought him all the way up here to Southwell, from the southern Riviera of Sussex, hoping it would snow – because he goes on that!” Baker said with a smile, after the four-year-old had prevailed at 11-4 under Adrian Heskin, on just his second attempt over hurdles.

“I’m delighted with him,” he added.

“We do have a bit of a mantra – ‘have horse, will travel’, always pressing the gamble button and going off to strange places and fun places with winning chances.”

Baker is perhaps best known for the globetrotting exploits of his 2013 Royal Hunt Cup winner Belgian Bill – and in Wargrave, he appears to have unearthed another kindred spirit.

“Belgian Bill took us round the world, and this fellow likewise,” he said.

“Who knows where we’ll end up? He might be a type for America at some point – we’ll see, one step at a time.

“America, via the Guatemalan Derby – I think that would be the obvious one.”

Other targets will come first, on home soil.

“By the end of the season, maybe he’ll be sneaking into the bottom of one of those better handicaps if things drop right,” said Baker.

“We’re never ones for getting ahead of ourselves. But I think a flat track probably suits – so I suppose if everything went perfectly, he’d maybe the type who could end up in a nice race at Aintree, because I’d have thought that track would probably suit him.

“But there’s another place called Cheltenham along the way. To add a Cheltenham winner to our Royal Ascot winner would be beyond my wildest dreams.

“But you have to have mad dreams in this game, as we all know. So I’ll drive home from here with a few.”

Wargrave has already made a lifelong dream come true for his owner Paul Bowden.

“He was a proper horse on the Flat,” said Baker.

“He’s been a real star, and I’m delighted for his owner Paul. He’s been a great supporter of ours, and his dream was to win that race in St Moritz – now the dream is racing on a bit longer!

“He did a great job for us in St Moritz, which is what the owner bought him for – he wanted a horse to win that big race over there.

“He got that job done, (but) then got a bit bored of the stalls through the summer.”

The solution was a comparatively short journey for Wargrave, for expert jumping tuition from triple Gold Cup-winner Best Mate’s former trainer and schooling doyenne Henrietta Knight.

Baker said: “If you want your horses to jump well, you send them to the best, so we sent him down to Hen’s, and all credit to her – she’s been a massive part of turning this horse’s mind around.

“He was just a bit sour through the summer, and he went down there for two weeks with Hen, and that’s been the making of him – he jumped beautifully at Exeter the other day.

“We’re mainly a Flat yard, but we love having a few jumpers round the place.

“He’s an exciting horse for a different discipline – if we can have a bit of fun with him over hurdles, so be it.”

Wargrave was not the only notable winner on the day when jumping returned for the first time to Southwell following a two-month suspension of its National Hunt fixture list while investigations were carried out into a spate of fatalities.

Despite two fallers and other non-completions on the eight-race card, there were no reports of serious injury.

Paul Nicholls’ Barbados Buck’s, meanwhile, also scored over hurdles for the first time.

The Stewart family’s well-related five-year-old served notice of his potential by relishing a step up in trip to win the Free Tips Daily On attheraces.com Novices’ Hurdle by two and a quarter lengths at 11-4 under Bryony Frost.